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By ARU Media Unit
The Australian Rugby Sevens have achieved their best result at the IRB Sevens World Series in over two years after they toppled last weekend’s champions Fiji to set up a Cup semi-finals showdown with Samoa in Las Vegas on Sunday.
Australia laid claim to causing one of the biggest upsets of the day, defeating Wellington Sevens champions Fiji 28-7 before Samoa sank coach Michael O’Connor’s team by the narrowest of margins, courtesy of a wobbly Lolo Lui-conversion which sealed the 14-12 defeat.
Samoa went on to beat New Zealand 33-12 to claim the USA Sevens Cup title and move into second behind the Kiwis on the 2009/10 IRB Sevens World Series standings.
Australia are closing in on fourth-placed England (50) after earning a season-high 16 points in Vegas to take their tally to 46 after four events.
Flying teenage winger Kimami Sitauti gave Australia the best possible start to their first Cup semi-final appearance since 2008, when he scored a try just after the one-minute mark.
Halfback James Stannard was unable to make the conversion and Samoa hit back with a converted try to go to the break with a slim 7-5 lead.
Recent Australian Schoolboys representative Sitauti only had eyes for the chalk and ran in his second try of the match just after halftime - with Stannard’s successful conversion, Australia held a slim 12-7 lead with four minutes remaining.
Strong defence and good discipline by the Patrick McCutcheon-led Aussies kept Samoa scoreless in the second half until Mikaele Pesamino touched down to make it 12-all with two minutes on the clock.
Australian coach O’Connor says he is pleased with the marked improvement of his side, which started the Series with only two players with previous Sevens experience.
“ We’ve played a minimum of four tournaments together and I have a good, young, enthusiastic group that are willing to learn and they showed out there that they have learned,” O’Connor said.
“Against Samoa, it was two tries all and the last try they scored in the corner wide out and the conversion hit the goal post and bounced over - and that was the difference in the game basically.
“We probably could have beaten New Zealand (12-7) last night, if a couple of things went our way, but they didn’t – and there’s nothing between us and Samoa and they’re the two teams who fought it out in the Cup final today.
“Things are looking really good for our home tournament in Adelaide, we’ve improved so much, competing for the Cup not the Plate, and we’re not far away.
“The boys are really looking forward to Adelaide.”
Australia last appeared in an IRB Cup semi -final in February 2008, when they lost 32-7 to New Zealand in Wellington. Australia’s last tournament victory was in Brisbane in 2002.
The IRB Sevens World Series hits Australia next month and will be staged at the historic Adelaide Oval from March 19-21.
Fox Sports 2 will broadcast Las Vegas Sevens highlights from 5pm (AEDT) on Monday afternoon.
Australian Sevens: Patrick McCutcheon (capt), James Stannard, Brian Sefanaia, Eddie Quirk, Liam Gill, Bernard Foley, Jacob Taylor, Brackin Karauria-Henry, Talalelei Gray, Kimami Sitauti, Clinton Sills, Robbie Coleman. Coach: Michael O’Connor
The Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens team begins its quest for Olympic qualification in Rio with Dubai first up in the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series in December.